September 20, 2013

Back to School: Chunking It!

Ready or not, here we go...

That was how I felt as Labor Day weekend approached!  My goal was to begin school again after Labor Day.  The lack of routine and structure for the older kids especially was really wearing on all of us.  After an extended break, I felt as if we were dealing with more squabbles and bickering than usual and general wild (though fairly harmless) behavior especially with the older boys, whose energy really needs more of a release than our house-bound, schedule-less summer allowed for.

On Labor Day itself we wanted to get out of the house and do something different, so we drove to Gaeta to Split Mountain--I'll have to blog about that later with pics.  That evening I was a bit in a panic, because I knew our "usual" school schedule needed to be thrown out the window now that we had a newborn in the house!  I didn't have time or energy to figure out HOW to do school; I just knew that we HAD to start for my sanity as well as for the kids' education, ha!

God mercifully gave me a brain burst that evening...instead of scheduling every little thing (which really does help us focus and get a lot done as a general rule), we are in a season during which "chunking" our time is going to be the best approach.  The older kids are far enough along that they can do a lot more independent work; plus, we need to give them opportunities to practice good time management skills (don't we all need to work on that?!) plus prove they can be responsible.

So our school days generally look something like this:

8:00 - 9:00  Breakfast, devotions, clean-up, morning chores, "hygiene time"  (Laugh if you must, but the boys needed "Put on deodorant" and "Brush teeth" ON THEIR CHECKLIST!!  They shower at night, but with the heat we were having when school began, they were already smelling ripe by the time mid-morning arrived!)

9:00 - 11:00  While I work with Kenna (reading lesson, math, handwriting) and do some reading aloud with her and the little boys, the older kids work on their quiet time (Bible reading, AWANA review, memory verses) math, language arts, to include their current reader, grammar, vocab, and a writing assignment each week (sometimes I still need to be involved with this--we just juggle), Rosetta Stone (Italian lessons), and independent reading (sometimes history, sometimes science).

11:00 - 1:00  The older kids are supposed to be practicing piano/violin during this time while I get lunch ready, but so far none of them has shown much initiative!  They seem to be more interested in free time--it probably doesn't help that I allow them to have free time when they finish their 9-11 block activities, so it's hard for them to keep track of that.  I don't really want anyone to begin practicing music until everyone else is finished with their work, since the piano is right in the middle of our work area, so I'm not sure how to work this other than encouraging them to be mindful of the time and take responsibility for their activities...much easier said than done, sigh.  Usually it dawns on me in the middle of the afternoon or even later that I never did hear any music, and then I do try to make the kids do their practicing then so they aren't completely getting away with not practicing at all...but there are days when it just doesn't happen.  So this needs improvement...

Anyway, we have lunch and clean up during this time as well, plus get Zaden ready for his nap.  I try to get some quiet activities ready for Lucan and Zaden (half the time Arden ends up playing with them too, LOL) for the next block of our day.

1:00 - ??  This is the time when we gather to do the rest of the older kids' schedule.  We read and discuss a Bible passage, pray for missionaries, sometimes read from a book highlighting 100 cities with prayer points, and go over our history and science.  I check any independent work that I didn't get to check during the morning as well.  It's a fun time of engaging with Charis, Tobin, and Arden, hearing them process ideas and pray out loud, and discussing things that make me delight in the privilege of being such an integral part of their growth.  Some days we don't finish until 3 or 3:30 (usually when our last chunk of time starts later than 1:00 for whatever reason).  Other days I hurry us up so that I can attempt to get a nap in while Zaden is still asleep.

We just completed our third week using the "chunked" time schedule, and I have to say that overall, it has been pretty successful.  Charis has figured out that she can maximize her free time by getting out of bed earlier instead of dragging down to breakfast at the last minute...also by happily setting about her work instead of moping her way through the less-favored assignments.  Her attitude has been positively sparkly! And the boys are s-l-o-w-l-y learning to take more responsibility without me nagging...but this will be a work in progress with all of us!


Bob and Claire said...

Our schedule looks quite similar to yours, except our "together" time is usually in the morning from 11:00-12:30. The "chunked" schedule is what we have found to work best as well! I'm going to steal that term, LOL.

Sarah said...

Love the chunking idea! We do that, too. Too many factors to have everything scheduled down to the 30-minute block any more!